Orientalism between text and experience: Richard Burton, T. E. Lawrence and the changing discourse of sexual morality in the Arab East

Alkabani, Feras (2014) Orientalism between text and experience: Richard Burton, T. E. Lawrence and the changing discourse of sexual morality in the Arab East. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis examines certain narratives in Richard Burton’s and T.E. Lawrence’s encounters with the Arab East. By juxtaposing both Orientalists’ accounts of Arab sexuality with the changes that had been taking place in Arabic literary and cultural discourse of the time, I highlight what appears to be a disparity in representation. Nonetheless, I argue that this disparity stems from a perception of ‘difference’ that characterises the relationship between East and West. This perception of ‘difference’ is further explored in the writings of Arab scholars on European culture since the beginning of the Euro-­‐Arab encounter in the nineteenth century.

I expose the epistemological bases of this modern encounter and situate it within the political changes that had been shaping the emerging Middle East on the eve of modernity. Burton and Lawrence are also situated within this context. I show how their Orientalist discourse involved a process of conflating ‘text’ and ‘experience’ while interacting with the Arab East. This conflation is evident in their textual rendition of certain experiential episodes they underwent in the Orient. While both Orientalists’ attraction to the Arab East may have been epistemological in origin, I argue that their narratives on Arab homoeroticism have been discursively subjective. In this, they appear to reflect the selectivity with which fin-­‐de-­‐siècle Arab scholars had been reproducing accounts of their past cultural heritage; albeit paradoxically. When Burton and Lawrence seem to have been heightening manifestations of Arab male-­to-male sexuality, their contemporary Arab intellectuals had been engaged in a process of systematic attenuation of the traces of past depictions of homoerotic desire in Arabic literature.

Although I focus on analysing texts from both Orientalists, I also draw on contemporary historical events, for they form part of the contextual framework in which my analysis operates.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0451 19th century
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0471 20th century
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2014 10:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2016 16:42
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/51602

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